MONTICELLO (KATV) — Mark Spencer moved his wife Rebecca and their two kids to Monticello from Oklahoma in 2005 after accepting a position at a local college—but she was hesitant about the move.
“I told him that I would move anywhere but Alaska or Arkansas,” Rebecca Spencer said.
While exploring their new town, she turned on to North Main Street and stumbled upon The Allen House, an extraordinary Queen Anne and Gothic style mansion hiding behind overgrown foliage and an iron fence. Spencer swooned.
“I couldn’t move to Monticello and not live in that house,” she said.
Spencer soon learned that the house had a dark past.
Joe Lee Allen commissioned Sylvester Hotchkiss in 1906 to design the mansion. Allen wanted to impress his clients, as he was growing into a prominent businessman in Monticello. And impress he did. But the 8,500-square-foot house became known less for Allen’s prestige and more for his family’s misfortune. The house is said to be haunted by his daughter Ladell.
In 1948, Ladell was recently divorced and had moved home to Monticello at the age of 45 to take care of her widowed mother. Ladell ran into her high school sweetheart Prentiss Hemingway Savage while he was visiting family in Monticello. He was married and working as an executive at Texaco Oil in Minnesota.
Once he returned to Minnesota, they began writing to each other regularly. Spencer said they became enthralled in a love affair, as chronicled by dozens of letters her husband found under the floorboards decades later.
Ladell and Savage devised a plot for him to leave his wife and run away with Ladell on Christmas. He faked a business trip and the pair went on a two-week road trip from Arkansas to Minnesota, outlined on a map that was also found buried in the floorboards.
But after months of back and forth, Savage was unable to leave his wife—he had a reputation to uphold. That Christmas, Ladell’s mother threw her annual Christmas party at the house.
“Everybody who was anybody was there that night,” Spencer said. “Ladell wanted to cause a scene.”
Ladell went up to her room with a glass of punch and a plate of snacks (later found in the room and preserved by the Spencers) and poisoned herself with mercury cyanide. The next day, Ladell was hospitalized. Mercury cyanide was an over-the-counter treatment for syphilis at the time and wasn’t strong enough to kill her quickly. She spent a week in the hospital before dying there on Jan. 2, 1949.
Cady kept her room untouched and sealed until it was sold to someone outside of the family over 30 years later.
“I think she kept the doors locked to keep Ladell in,” Spencer said.
That is now the Spencers’ master bedroom.
Rebecca made a deal with her husband—if he took the job in Monticello, she got the house.
But it wasn’t on the market. Mark accepted the position anyway and they temporarily moved into less conspicuous housing.
The folklore surrounding The Allen House reached the Spencers as they entered into a two-year negotiation with its owner.
“I didn’t really believe in the supernatural and I love history,” Spencer said. “I knew I needed the house.”
The house had served as a school, an apartment complex and a private residence. It needed a lot of work. During the two years the Spencers waited to move in, the owner let the lawn grow over and the porch cave in.
When they moved in in 2007, they quickly began renovations. They refurbished some original furniture and moved in vintage pieces to match. They unearthed artifacts from around the grounds and started piecing together the stories of the Allen family. Mark would go on to find over 50 of Ladell’s letters that painted a vivid picture of their lives.
At the same time, they began experiencing strange activity in the house.
“We started seeing Jacob (their five-year-old son) in places that he wasn’t,” Spencer said. “And that’s the doppelganger activity.”
Doppelganger activity, according to those who study the paranormal, is a spirit taking a living person’s form.
“It’s not like we’re seeing a ghost,” she said. “We’re just seeing our kid in different places.”
They still didn’t think the house was haunted. But they did think there was something “odd” going on.
“There had to be a more serious explanation for this,” Spencer said.
They assumed it was fumes or mold that was distorting their vision. But paranormal investigators confirmed the folklore the Spencers were trying so hard to ignore.
“[The investigators] said, ‘I’m sorry ya’ll, you live in a haunted house’,” Spencer said. “They say this is where EVPs are born.”
EVP stands for electronic voice phenomenon. It’s known to show up in audio recordings during paranormal investigations.
Spencer said they never have felt threatened by the paranormal activity.
“The only thing that’s uneasy is your own mind,” Spencer said. “When your mind tells you things that are there or aren’t there. It’s like being a kid and being afraid of the dark. You don’t know what’s there and what isn’t.”
Although, one of their sons won’t use the bathroom on the first level because almost 10 years ago he heard someone or something say his name there.
“For my kids, it’s everyday life,” Spencer said. “It’s like having invisible family members … if [a ghost] is in the room, I’ll just get out of their way.”
Spencer said she’s seen a dark black outline of a man that resembles a cowboy. She calls him “shadowman.” Spencer said she’s seen his boots walk in the master bathroom and has seen him walk out the front door. She has seen him five times in the 12 years they’ve lived there. Paranormal investigators on the SyFy channel show “Ghost Hunters” believe they even captured him on camera.
There have been six ghosts that Spencer said have been identified by investigators. Ladell is one of them.
The ghosts of Joe Lee, Cady, Allen Bonner, Ladell, a baby and a man with a gruff voice have been identified. And Spencer said there is probably more. But she is hesitant to name them.
“You have to be a skeptic,” Spencer said. “If it doesn’t happen to me, I don’t believe it. The stories are incredible. They’re hard to believe.”
The house is old and drafty with wood floors and rattling pipes. If you weren’t “dismissive of most things,” Spencer said, you couldn’t live there.
But untouched rocking chairs are known to move on occasion. Footsteps in the attic and the faint sound of a crying baby are not uncommon. During guided tours and dinner parties, visitors say they have even been touched by invisible forces.
“It’s always our most skeptical people to come through that have something paranormal happen to them,” Spencer said. “If you don’t believe in ghosts, that’s OK. But if you stuck around here long enough, you might change your mind.”